Thai foreign minister makes official visit to Myanmar
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya left Sunday for an official two-day visit to Myanmar that is expected to touch on the controversial issue of the two countries' joint efforts to solve the ethnic minority Rohingya problem, dpa reported.
In his first official visit to Myanmar as foreign minister, Kasit will meet Prime Minister General Thein Sein and his counterpart Nyan Win in the military's new capital of Naypyitaw, 350 kilometres north of Yangon.
During the meeting Kasit will present some 2 million baht (55,000 dollars) to the junta to help reconstruct pagodas and religious sites in Nyuang Wai Village which was destroyed by Cyclone Nargis, the Thai News Agency (TNA) said.
Kasit will also seek updates on Thai assistance projects to victims of Cyclone Nargis, which smashed into central Myanmar on May 2-3, leaving 140,000 dead or missing. Other bilateral projects inclued road links between the two neighbouring countries, cooperation on energy, the Dawei Deep Sea Port project, the issue of illegal migrant workers and human trafficking, the TNA said.
Kasit was expected to also discuss Myanmar's efforts to solve the Rohingya problem that turned into a major embarrassment for Thailand last December, after it was revealed that the Thai military had forced some 1,000 refugees out to sea in boats without engine or sufficient food supplies.
The Rohingya are an ethnic minority group who have been living in Myanmar's Arakan, or Rakhine State, for generations.
The Myanmar government refuses to grant citizenship to the Muslim Rohingya on the grounds that they are not listed among the country's 135 "official" minority groups.
Lacking citizenship, the estimated 800,000 Rohingya living in Myanmar have no rights to own land, seek employment or travel freely, forcing thousands to venture abroad in search of work.
At the 14th Summit of the Assocaition of South-East Asian Nations held last month in Thailand, Thein Sein pledged to grant Rohingyas residency papers if they could prove they were of Bengali descent and had permanent addresses in Myanmar.
Myanmar authorities insist the Rohingya are Bengali immigrants. The government does list Bengalis among its "official" minority groups eligible for citizenship.